Compromised Witness: Nara Capezzali

Amanda Knox case: Nara Capezzali testified she heard a scream.
Nara Capezzali claims she heard a scream.

Nara Capezzali was born in Foligno, May 9th, 1940 and lives at 26 via del Melo across the street from the cottage above the car park. According to the Prosecution, Judge Massei, Judge Nencini, the Attorney General of Umbria and the Italian Supreme Court in 2013, Nara Capezzali is a credible witness.

Not only was Nara considered credible, her testimony was used to set the time of death.

In court prosecutor Mignini affirmed:

Timely, very timely, fundamental testimony from brave, frank and honest Signora Capezzali. Testimony of capital importance from Signora Capezzali.

The Truth About Nara

Nara mixed up her nights on the stand [just like ”super-witness” Antonio Curatolo] and said she heard the scream on Halloween, the night before the murder. A scream that traveled from the victim’s bedroom at the back of the cottage through thick stone walls, across a busy street and through double-glazed windows into Nara’s flat. A scream she remembers only because she woke up after taking a laxative. This “blood-curdling scream” wasn’t remarkable enough in Nara’s noisy neighborhood to make the 68-year-old widow call the police, check her watch, wake up her sleeping daughter or tell the police about on November 2 after being told a girl had been murdered in the cottage she overlooked.

Indeed, Nara waited 25 days to come forward because she thought the scream might have been a joke or the result of a traffic accident. Not only did Nara claim to have heard the scream through double-glazed windows but also people running and even leaves rustling. Nara changed the time she went to bed compared to her original police statement, issued a statement to Porta Porta before the trial and added a new detail about having a camomile tea. Nara said she was told about Meredith Kercher’s murder before the body had even been discovered and said she saw posters with Lumumba and Guede’s name on them before they’d been arrested and their names in the media. Nara also testified seeing Meredith one day with a fat lip as if she’d been punched, yet no one who Meredith interacted with on daily basis ever reported seeing that.

A defense request for an expert audiometric test to establish if it was possible to hear a scream from Nara’s apartment was denied by Judge Massei.[1]

In April 2011, Giangavino Sulas reported in Oggi Magazine that Nara suffered from deafness and from physical and mental problems and was undergoing recovery in a psychiatric ward.[2]

Witness Statement

Summary of Nara Capezzali’s statement to police on Novemebr 27, 2007.[3]

Nara went to bed at about 9:30pm and doesn’t remember what time she got up. When asked to guess what time it might have been, she says 11 or 11:30pm but she doesn’t know. She says the noise came from the house. For 1 minute she looked out the window and she heard the noise of stones and leaves blowing in the street below her, and then a couple of seconds after the scream she heard two people running, one person on the metal stairs that lead out of the car park, the other running towards via Bulagaio or towards the University for Foreigners. She said she didn’t look at the time because there are always people messing about down there. Later she shows doubt about where the noise actually came from. She couldn’t get back to sleep at first and she thought about whether somebody had been mugged because it happens a lot there in the street below, or perhaps a girl had been attacked. The next morning she didn’t mention the scream to her daughter because she wasn’t sure about it. In the two weeks running up to the event she had been suffering from Labyrinthitis [From Wikipedia: a problem of the inner ear. It results in vertigo and also possible hearing loss or ringing in the ears]. The next day she went out at about 11am to buy bread. When she got back she saw all the police from her window. People who rented a flat from her told her that a girl had been killed in the house in front of her. This all happened, as far as she can remember, at mid-day, a little before lunch! She says she had seen Meredith several times in the past. She would see her pass by with her books under her arm and she made an impression on her because Meredith had had one of her lips done really large! She didn’t report the scream earlier because she had been unwell and she had forgotten about the scream and then later she remembered it.

Trial Testimony Excerpts

View of the cottage from Nara Capezzali's window.
View of the cottage from Nara Capezzali’s window.

Nara took medication before going to bed.

PRESIDENT – So this habit of taking these pills how long ago in time is it?
Answer – It goes back two years, from when my husband died, no longer.

Nara regularly heard screams from the car park.

DEFENCE – BONGIORNO – Let her finish.
PM – DR. MIGNINI – But she has not understood.
PRESIDENT – Perhaps that is not the answer to the question put.
Answer – I’m here for the first time.
PRESIDENT – Don’t worry, madam.
PM – DR. MIGNINI – Before getting to the night in question, wait a moment, now I wanted to know about before, in the period before, between the death of your husband and that night. Did it happen that you were awoken by noise or screams before?
Answer – Well. Yes, because down there there is the car-park where there are so many …
PRESIDENT – Other than the cars, is there something else or is it only cars?
Answer – Well, there would be the druggies.
PRESIDENT – The screams, who screams? This is what the PM is asking.
Answer – Yes, but among them, among those going to get their cars, there are people running after them… well, shouts of joy, it’s not that …

Nara changed the time she went to bed and said she thinks she slept for a ‘couple of hours, perhaps even a little more.’ (Incredibly Massei states as fact she heard the scream at 11.30pm based on this testimony – Massei Report p98)

Prosecutor Mignini Questioning
Question – Go ahead.
Answer – Well, I went to bed about nine, I had a look at the TV, but there was nothing that interested me, so I went to sleep.
Question – Excuse me, at about 9.00 or 9.30pm.
Answer – 9.00 or 9.30pm, not that I looked at my watch, but more or less, I always go to bed at that time.
Question – So 9.00 to 9.30pm?
Answer – Yes.
Question – In your statements of November 27th, 2007, why did you say that you went to bed at 9.30pm, do now you remember better, or was it a different time?
Answer – No, it’s not a different time because I always go to bed around that time.
Question – All right. Go on and tell what happened.
Answer – I got up to to the bathroom, when I went …
Question – Wait. How long did you sleep, about?
Answer – Well I think that I slept a couple of hours, perhaps even a little more, I don’t know because …
Question – Are you unable to say, however around two hours…
Defence- Ghirga – President, but this is not right, he continues to always suggest the answers, the statement will be useful for the challenges! I ask that the President makes her reply and then he will challenge with the statement he has in his hands.

Nara’s windows were closed and double glazed.

Question – Did you open the bathroom window?
Answer – No.
Question – Explain what happened for us.
Answer – I haven’t any shutters on that window, I only have double-glazing so I can look straight out.

[….]

Luca Maori: In your house, which faces north, have you double glazing?
Answer: Yes.
Luca Maori: In all the rooms?
Answer: Yes.
Luca Maori: In the living room as well?
Answer: Yes.

Nara didn’t tell her daughter she heard a scream.

PM – DR. MIGNINI – Did you try and wake your daughter?
Answer – No, why? If the scream had gone on I could have got her to hear it, but …

When Nara woke up the next morning and was told by some guys a girl had been murdered in the cottage she didn’t mention hearing a scream.

Question – Then what happened that morning?
Answer – That morning while I was cleaning the house, I heard the boys coming downstairs running, saying: “Signora, signora, they have killed a girl over there in that cottage”; “Not really – I say – you lot are always carrying on!”, “No, no, I’m telling you the truth̀!” In fact they all ran to go and see, but I didn’t go because I’m not like that. Then after I went out to get the bread…

Nara said she saw posters about Meredith’s death around 11am even though her body wasn’t discovered until after 1pm.

Question – About what time?
Answer – It would have been around eleven, and I stopped at the newsstand and there were already these posters which talked about this girl and then I said: “Oh God, I heard it then, it was this girl”

Nara included a new detail about drinking a cup of camomile after hearing the scream which wasn’t mentioned in her police statement.

DEFENCE – BONGIORNO – Madam in your statements which we have in transcripts, unless there are transcripts we don’t have, this story of the camomile is not here.
Answer – It should be there because I have always declared it and I said it before as well.
Question – Well I obviously request the transcripts to be produced, this being an anomaly as far as the reconstruction is concerned. When did you make your statements to the court authorities, not to the police.
PRESIDENT – Do you remember when you made your statements?
DEFENCE – BONGIORNO – How did you decide… How come you went to the court authority?
Answer – Because I felt I should do so.

Nara saw the names of Lumumba, Knox, Sollecito and Guede on posters on November 3.

Question – But I wanted to ask you something, on this poster, when you say all the names, whose names? Meredith, and then whose names?
Answer – Of Meredith who was killed, of Sollecito, the girl. The black lad and that other tall one.
Question – So the names of Sollecito, Knox, Guede and Lumumba, these four names?
Answer – Yes.
Question – So these four names you read them on the poster which you see not the day after, but the day after that day?
Answer – The day after.

Nara didn’t report hearing the scream for 25 days.

Question – The call to the police, the one you make, you don’t remember the day, here it takes place in the next statement of the 27th, the statement means the summary of what you did, so it shows on the 27th that you have telephoned and they ask you: “Why did you call the police only today?” and that is November 26th. How long had passed from when you had the memories? Was it two or three days or longer?
Answer – I don’t remember, perhaps even longer, some days longer, but I don’t remember.
Question – Madam many days had passed.
Answer – Yes, because I didn’t know what to do, it’s not easy.

Nara wasn’t sure what job her daughter had at the time.

Question – Whayt was your daughter’s job?
Answer – Now I can’t remember … Wait …
PRESIDENT – You don’t remember?
Answer – No.
PRESIDENT – Was it a job for just that day? A permanent job, to help you a little?
Answer – No, a few days, yes. Perhaps in rural tourism.
PRESIDENT – All right. Go on.

Nara said the scream was now on Halloween not November 1.

DEFENCE – BONGIORNO – Madam, the night there is a scream, let’s start with a first question, are you sure this scream was between the 1st and the 2nd November?
Answer – The night of Halloween!
Question – The night of Halloween is October 31st, could it be that this scream was the 31st?
PRESIDENT – Madam you say the night of Halloween, can you indicate on the calendar when the night of Halloween is?
Answer – No because I wasn’t interested.
DEFENCE –BONGIORNO – But were there masked people around that night?
Answer – No, no, there was no-one, nobody
Question – How do you come to say that the scream was on the 1st, then you tell me the night of
Halloween, and the night of Halloween is the night between the 31st and the 1st? Is the night of Halloween between the 1st and the 2nd?
Answer – I don’t remember all these times, these things, I don’t remember them any more.

Nara told two friends called Tina and Lina about hearing the scream but didn’t know their surnames or apartment number.

DEFENCE – BONGIORNO – At this point I wanted to know the surnames of Tina and Lina.
Answer – I don’t know them.
Question – Thank you President.
PRESIDENT – You know them or you don’t?
Answer – I don’t know them, I know their names.
PRESIDENT – Do you know where they live?
Answer – They live where we do.
PRESIDENT – But do you know the precise address?
Answer – Yes, in via del Melo but now I don’t remember the number. One of them was operated on recently.
PRESIDENT – Madam the question is only to have the possibility of identifying these two friends of yours …
Answer – Two… there were groups of people.
PRESIDENT – But you only know the name of two of these persons?
Answer – Yes.

Hellmann Report

The Corte di Assise of first level has acknowledged the difficulty of determining the time of death exactly based merely on medical criteria. As the exact data are not all available, the time span where Meredith Kercher’s death can be placed according to those criteria remains rather wide: from 9-9.30 pm of November 1st 2007 to the early hours of November 2nd 2007. However, reconstructing the unfolding of the events, the first-level Corte di Assise concluded that it was able to establish the time of death from other evidence, particularly the harrowing scream reportedly heard by witnesses Capezzali and Monacchia exactly – according to the Court – around 11.30 pm.

Actually, witness Capezzali – as a reading of the transcription of her testimony at the hearing of 03/27/2009 clearly shows – was not able to pinpoint an exact time, since she did not look at a watch (which, as she herself has stated, she never checks), but provided only very rough estimates, having said that she went to sleep at 9-9.30 pm and that she woke up two hours later to go to the bathroom ( the two-hour time span, however, was given just because that is the time at which she usually wakes up again at night). And it was exactly at this juncture that she heard the scream, followed, after a while, by the clatter of footsteps on the iron stairs leading to the parking lot below and by the shuffling on the alleyway in front of the house on Via Della Pergola.

Actually the witness has stated that she did not look out of the window to see what was going on, but that she could locate the source of those noises thanks to her good knowledge of the surrounding area. What puts the sharpness of her memories in doubt is the fact that the witness herself has claimed to have learnt that a girl had been killed in the house on Via Della Pergola during the night from some youngsters passing by her house while she was busy with housecleaning the day after: what cannot be understood is how could it be possible for this news to be learned at a time (morning of November 2nd 2007) when the crime had not yet been discovered by the Police.

Nevertheless, this Court has no real reason to doubt the reliability of this witness concerning the scream and the noises heard during the night, considering the spontaneity and confidence she showed in reporting them, but, however, wishes to draw attention to the extreme ambiguity of the reported facts as clues for determining the time of death: whether due to the loose determination of the time when she heard them, when a sharp temporal determination would be of [utmost] relevance (half an hour more or less is anything but unimportant); or because the source of those noises is not at all certain, since Ms. Capezzali had at other times heard screams (even if not as chilling as the one heard that night) and night-time noises, being rowdiness, arguments and the comings and goings of people – as stated by the witness herself – not a rarity in that area, since it is close to a parking lot and busy with young people and “junkies”.

Documents

Statement to Police November 27, 2007 – (Italian)

Testimony of Nara Capezzali – (English) – (Italian)

Hellmann Report: Time of Death – (English)

References

[1] Massei Report p21

an expert audiometric test was sought, to be undertaken to establish whether the witness Nara Capezzali, on the premise of the presence in her dwelling of double-glazed windows, was able to hear the noises and the screams of which she had given an account in her deposition;
The Court disallowed all the requests, on the grounds that the additional expert reports requested did not appear necessary

[2] Crime in Perugia: The “collapse” of the prosecution during the appeal process
[3] Statement to Police November 27, 2007

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